Edinburgh 27 - 16 Leinster: Edinburgh weather the cold war to dispatch Leinster with quick burst

THREE tries in a 14-minute first-half burst clinched a comfortable victory for Edinburgh over a much-weakened Leinster side last night, but the rest of the hosts' performance did little to divert the minds of supporters from the bitter cold that swirled around the national stadium.

Edinburgh were always the better side, but they failed to ram home their advantage against a side featuring just two players who started against Harlequins in Sunday's Heineken Cup quarter-final win, in a display short of the urgency expected of a side within sight of its best-ever Magners League finish.

After a listless start, Edinburgh showed what they were capable of when they lifted the pace and direction of attack. The opening try came after ten minutes when Edinburgh took a quick lineout on the ten-metre line. After attacking wide left, the hosts maintained the zip in their attack long enough for Allister Hogg to batter through a feeble tackle by Ronan McCormack, the Leinster loosehead prop, and over the line from ten metres.

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Ross Ford then underlined his claims to a British and Irish Lions tour place with sublime skills that created a try from nothing in the 20th minute.

The Edinburgh and Scotland hooker took possession of a loose ball just inside Edinburgh's half and weaved away from his opposite number. He then beat scrum-half Chris Keane on the inside before drawing Girvan Dempsey to send John Houston racing away to the posts.

The Edinburgh support was on its feet again within four minutes, Mike Blair, the home scrum-half, easily finding space on the left and drawing the last defender to send Simon Webster over.

Paterson converted again to put the hosts 21-0 up after 25 minutes and Leinster supporters must have feared the kind of 50-pointer that their side had inflicted on the hosts early in the season.

A forward pass ended another promising Edinburgh attack, but Leinster claimed a finger-hold in the game a minute before the interval with a penalty from Fergus McFadden. The screwed-up features of Andy Robinson, the Edinburgh coach, as he strode to the touchline and duly watched Hogg knock-on in the last act of the half suggested the hosts would be given something of a rocket at the break.

However, it was Leinster who again started the half the brighter, Keogh again driving into the Edinburgh defence and an offside penalty allowed McFadden to double his side's score in less than four minutes. The hosts needed a last-gasp tackle from Paterson to prevent the deficit being cut severely only a minute later when O'Brien emerged from the pack after flimsy Edinburgh defence and broke deep into the home 22.

The pattern of the first half continued with the hosts biding their time and then bursting into life. Paterson squandered a good opportunity from a Blair garryowen that Shane Horgan dropped, when the full-back failed to exploit a two-on-one with Houston outside him, preferring to cut inside, where he was caught in heavy traffic.

A fine Edinburgh scrum regained possession inside the visitors' 22 and Paterson duly did what he does best, turned it into three points with his metronomic right boot with ten minutes gone. Unlike the first half, however, there was no sudden burst of scoring from the hosts; instead McFadden responded with a long-range penalty.

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Robinson sent on David Blair for Phil Godman and Scott MacLeod for Craig Hamilton in a clear bid to seize more possession and create more in the opposition half with it. The key for Edinburgh was the tempo of the match, and they had to lift it to reveal the difference in quality between their first side and Leinster's second.

It was proving a tough challenge, however, and it got worse when they mixed up the lineout and handed Leinster an attacking platform on halfway. The Irishman seized it and finished a series of phases with hooker John Fogarty brushing off tackles by MacLeod and Blair around a ruck five metres out to dive over. Suddenly, with McFadden's conversion the hosts' lead was just eight points and a game that should have been buried was alive.

Paterson nudged over another three points after a good break by Ben Cairns, but now the rain was teeming down and Welsh referee Tim Hayes was adding to Edinburgh's task with two successive penalty decisions that went against the grain. The first came when Dempsey was caught in possession and driven backwards, and the second when Edinburgh drove the hosts off their own scrum, both times Leinster being given the scrum.

The game entered the last ten minutes with Leinster clinging on and Edinburgh, though dominating possession and territory, struggling to put them away.

Hogg came close to ending the game as he started it, driving into the left-hand corner, but he was deemed to be in touch and a game that should have brought Edinburgh four tries and a bonus point petered out in cold, frustrating finish.


Edinburgh: Tries: Hogg, Houston, Webster; Pen: Paterson; Cons: Paterson 3.

Leinster: Try: Fogarty; Pens: McFadden 3; Con: McFadden.

Edinburgh: C Paterson; J Houston, B Cairns, N De Luca, S Webster; P Godman, M Blair (capt); K Traynor, R Ford, G Cross, C Hamilton, J Hamilton, S Newlands, A Hogg, A MacDonald. Subs: D Blair for Godman, S MacLeod for C Hamilton both 53, M Mustchin for Newlands, R Grant for Cross, both 60.

Leinster: G Dempsey; S Horgan, F McFadden, G D'Arcy, S Keogh; I Nacewa, C Keane; R McCormack, J Fogarty, S Knoop, L Cullen (capt), T Hogan, C Jowitt, S Keogh, S O'Brien. Subs: G Brown for Simon Keogh 22mins, O Le Roux for Knoop 40, Knoop for McCormack 45, D Toner for Hogan 51, McCormack for Knoop 54, P O'Donohue for Keane, C McLaughlin for Jowitt, both 56, B Blaney for Fogarty 76.

Ref: T Hayes (WRU). Att: 2747.